Roger Federer began his quest for his 7th World Tour Finals title with a comprehensive and smooth victory over Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-1 on Tuesday afternoon. The win moved Federer into the lead for most match wins at the event, and he passes John McEnroe in the all-time wins list, with 876.
The Swiss Maestro held quite comfortably at the start of the match, and then proceeded to break the 8th seed. He opened up a controlling three-game lead, and focused all his energy on holding. In the second set, he broke Tipsarevic in the third, fifth, and seventh games to put away the match rather easily. It was a fine display from Federer and the peRFect way to start off his week.
It is worth noting that Tipsarevic has fallen victim to a cold in recent days, but even if he was completely healthy, the result would remain pretty much the same. Janko has nothing to hurt Federer with and the Swiss was in full control of his advanced arsenal the entire match.
The world #2 only served at 51% for the match, however he backed it up with a very stable second serve and authoritative baseline strokes. It was a vintage performance as Roger pulled out some amazing shots (more on that later), and hit his backhand like gold.
On Monday, Andy Murray defeated Tomas Berdych in three sets and Novak Djokovic defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straights. Therefore, we will see a rematch of the US Open and Shanghai finals on Wednesday, in what should be a cracker. Federer plays David Ferrer, who took out del Potro 6-4 in the 3rd. Roger definitely has a big advantage in his group in games won/loss so far.
Analysis/Thoughts on Federer in this match:
Simply put, Roger was fantastic in this match. He may lose a step or two at his age (although it appears he hasn't), but he will never lose his unique shotmaking genius. A few examples of the amazing shots he hit in this match:
- Early in the first set (at 3-1, 30-0), Tipsarevic attacked the net and Fed passed him. However, the Serb got his racket on it and just dipped the ball over the net. Federer, scrambling almost effortlessly to get there, ran around his backhand side to lay a forehand on the ball, and flicked the fuzz inside-out with a very acute angle. Janko got his racket on the ball, but Roger put away the smash. It was absolutely brilliant and shows how dexterous Fed's right wrist is. He is way too flexible for his own good, I tell you.
- At 3-1 deuce in the second set, Roger hit a fading drop shot just over the net. He moved forward, while Tipsarevic slipped the ball past him with a sharp angle. Fed, as agile as he is, ran to the ball that was behind him and somehow flicked his wrist into a backhand that got the ball over the net. Again, his wrist is way too talented with a racket in his hand.
- Just two points later, the two men had an exchange of forehand strokes, and then out of the blue, Federer hit a forehand that landed short of the service line just inside the sideline. The only catch is that he did this while standing in the ad court. How he was able to create an angle such as that I don't know. The amount of top spin he puts on the ball is extremely underrated though.
- When he did capture the break in that game, it was a thing of beauty. A 24-shot rally in which Roger defended superbly a few times off the backhand side until a sizzling backhand down the line gave him control of the rally, and then he put away a popped up Tipsarevic defensive shot with a fiery forehand winner. He then let out a yell that wasn't a "come on" or an "allez," but it was more like a "Yeee!"
Federer's success on the the indoor London hardcourt:
With his win, Federer moved to 13-2 at the O2 Arena in London for the World Tour Finals, and he has won his past 11. Overall, he has 40 wins at the event dating back 11 years ago when he first made the top 8 in 2002. Picking up two titles in Houston and two in Shanghai, he cemented his status as the man to beat at the end of the season almost every year. He was never fatigued like others were at the end of the season-long grind, and nearly always performed his best.
The same rings true in London.
At the O2 Arena, it is as if Federer is playing in his own backyard. His serve is more lethal, his returns are crisper (and he makes more of them), his volleying is more accurate, and his immaculate groundstrokes are made to be even more effective. Especially his backhand, which brings me to my next point.
Federer's backhand is unbreakable on this court. Just using this match against Tipsarevic as an example, there is great evidence to suggest as much. Many times Janko hammered away backhands at Roger, but Fed just half-volleyed them back and with interest. Mentally, Roger just doesn't have any fear of hitting on that side on this court, and it pays massive dividends for him when it comes to dominating from the baseline.
Historically, Federer's backhand has been his best shot on the court too. In 2009 and 2010, Murray tried to break it down. Couldn't do it. In 2010 Djokovic tried and failed. In 2010 and 2011, Rafael Nadal, the one man who has hurt Roger's backhand the most in his career, couldn't even come close to doing it. But why?
Much of it (in my analyzed opinion) has to do with the actual court. Of course, the event is played indoors so that helps with Roger's confidence on that wing in that he can time the ball much better, but that isn't what I am talking about.
The court can be described as a mid-to-low bouncing hardcourt. Federer's top spin strokes bounce off the court faster than normal because there's no wind to affect the ball. The court is pretty fast, however the heavy top spin his shots have kick off the court quicker and more extreme. His slice also stays extremely low, and many players have struggled with the extreme variation Federer shows them on this court.
The quickness of the court helps with his backhand because he is able to counter-punch successfully off the backhand side when it is peppered, since many balls don't come shoulder height and he doesn't have to move back to wait for the ball to drop. He can take on half-volleys at will standing close to the baseline and bide his time until the right shot opens up or the opponent tries to attack his forehand.
Note: I have observed just how deep Federer hits his backhand consistently on the court. It is absolutely stunning. He just does not allow opponents to attack him by keeping them on the back foot. His forehand depth isn't as great, but he uses his forehand for more angle so he doesn't have to hit it deep all the time.* But unless Roger has stepped inside the court, he will not angle his backhand cross court, but rather set himself up to run around his backhand for his favourite inside-out forehand.
*Federer's forehand can be angled off more and be just as effective because it's generally coming faster than his backhand is. So a whip forehand that lands at the service line gets to the opponent just as fast as a steady, solid deep backhand that he half-volleys off the baseline.
Anyway, that is my attempt at analysis. I have been thinking about his backhand since I saw the match, and it brought up fresh thoughts that I just had to get down (for my own benefit). I do find Roger's game fascinating, and especially indoors when everything comes together.
Enjoy the tennis tomorrow and I'll be back after Federer vs Ferrer. Hope you enjoyed!
This is my tennis blog, Lefty Advantage. Tennis is my biggest passion in life and I started this site to discuss the great game. I mainly follow the career of Roger Federer, but I truly love watching all tennis, whether it be the final of a Grand Slam or a junior tournament on the other side of the world.
I have played tennis for 13 years. If you ever met me, I could talk your head off about all things tennis for hours on end if you would let me. Welcome, and enjoy the writing!